Festive foods: Top 9 swaps to lighten up your holiday season

Yes, the holidays are among us and it’s going to be a nutrition nightmare! But not necessarily...

Racha Adib

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Yes, the holidays are among us and it’s going to be a nutrition nightmare! But not necessarily. Did you know that many of your favorite holiday foods can easily be lightened up and placed on your yummy lists this season?

Let’s go over some simple swaps that can help reduce calories and improve the nutrient content of traditional foods with little-to-no effort. Don’t forget to try these out and impress your guests!

Vanilla for sugar in desserts

Adding a teaspoon of vanilla allows you to cut the amount of sugar by one-half. So let’s say your recipe calls for a cup of sugar, you can add a half-cup sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla and voila, you’ve just deducted 380 calories from your recipe. Nutmeg and cinnamon serve to intensify the sweetness of your recipe as well so go ahead and experiment.

Mashed cauliflower for potatoes in potato puree

Cauliflower and potatoes are both vegetables, but potatoes are starchy which means they pack way more calories than non-starchy vegetables like cauliflowers. If you want a lighter version of your puree, try mixing half mashed potato with half mashed cauliflower and it’ll nearly be impossible to taste the difference.

Applesauce for butter in baked goods

Don’t overlook this one until you’ve tried it! This swap works well if you’re baking something sweet like muffins or cakes.

Applesauce, which can be made by cooking chopped apples in water, can make a great butter replacement. So if your recipe calls for 2 cups butter, replace 1 cup for applesauce. The great part is it also gives a hint of sweetness, which means you can reduce the amount of sugar in your recipe as well. Less saturated fat and less sugar – talk about a win-win!

Chia seeds for eggs in baked goods

Those seeds are good for more than just mixing in smoothies and salads. When you combine 1 tablespoon chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water, and let it sit for 15 minutes, you’ll get a highly gelatinous mix that can stand in for eggs when baking. Now you can proudly say your baking is egg free!

Dark greens for iceberg lettuce in salads

Although iceberg is quite low in calories, but all greens are not created the same. If you swap iceberg for darker greens, you can be adding nutrients like Iron, Vitamin C, and antioxidants. We’re thinking Romaine lettuce, fresh spinach, parsley, kale, arugula or a blend of them all. What will you choose?

Pureed carrots for cream in thick soups

The winter holidays cannot be complete without a nice bowl of warm creamy soup. But what gives that texture in soups? You guessed it – full fat heavy cream. If you want to pack more nutrients and less saturated fat, consider adding pureed carrots or sweet potato instead of cream to bulk it up.

Nuts for croutons in salads

Ever wonder why you love croutons so much? It’s really all about that crunch. Croutons are often made from white flour, and then fried, and salted – not really something you would consider a healthy option. Rather than omitting croutons, replace them with some hearty baked nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, or walnuts.
Oats for breadcrumbs

Making a chicken escalope or some chicken fingers? Instead of using bread crumbs that have little health benefit, choose intact oats and an additional seasoning of herbs or black pepper. That’s more fiber, B vitamins, and Iron just like that.

Yogurt for mayonnaise

It’s the oldest trick in the book but it works! Nonfat yogurt has more calcium, less saturated fat, and much less calories than regular mayonnaise. It’s quite the swap too - 100g of nonfat yogurt contains 0.4g saturated fat while the same amount of mayonnaise contains a whopping 75g.

Nonfat yogurt and mayonnaise have the same consistency, but not the same flavor. The trick is to mix them half in half to keep the taste of mayo intact, because you don’t want to end up with a yogurt taste. Choose fat-free mayo for the other half. The end result, if you make the magical swap, you can be saving an average of 660 calories in a typical recipe.